Policewoman who fatally shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Minneapolis suburb accidentally confused her handgun with her taser, police say, sparking tensions in city already on edge because of George Floyd's murder trial.

People gather in protest on April 11, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis.
People gather in protest on April 11, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis. (Christian Monterrosa / AP)

Authorities in and around Minneapolis have announced a curfew after a police officer shot dead a young Black man, dramatically escalating tensions in the US city.

"I have declared a state of emergency in the city of Minneapolis, and we are following that up with a curfew that will begin at 7:00 pm (2300 GMT) tonight (and) go until 6:00 am tomorrow morning," Mayor Jacob Frey told a press conference on Monday.

The curfew will also be enforced in the twin city of St. Paul as well as surrounding communities including Hennepin County, where 20-year-old Daunte Wright was killed on Sunday when a police officer "mistakenly" used her gun instead of a taser during a confrontation.

'Accidental discharge'

Police Chief Tim Gannon described the shooting as "an accidental discharge."

"The officer drew their handgun instead of their taser," he said at a press conference. 

"This was an accidental discharge that resulted in a tragic death of Mr (Daunte) Wright," Gannon said.

His death sparked violent protests, with officers in riot gear clashing with demonstrators into Monday morning.

The Minneapolis area was already on edge because of the trial of the first of four police officers charged in George Floyd’s death.

The judge in that case refused on Monday to sequester the jury after a defence attorney argued that the panel could be influenced by the prospect of what might happen as a result of their verdict.

Minnesota Gov Tim Walz tweeted that he was praying for Wright’s family “as our state mourns another life of a Black man taken by law enforcement.”

Speaking before the unrest, Wright's mother, Katie Wright, urged protesters to stay peaceful and focused on the loss of her son.

“All the violence, if it keeps going, it’s only going to be about the violence. We need it to be about why my son got shot for no reason,” she said to a crowd near the shooting scene in Brooklyn Center, a city of about 30,000 people on the northwest border of Minneapolis. 

“We need to make sure it’s about him and not about smashing police cars, because that’s not going to bring my son back.”

Protesters who gathered near the scene waved flags and signs reading “Black Lives Matter.” Others walked peacefully with their hands held up. On one street, someone wrote in multi-coloured chalk: “Justice for Daunte Wright.”

READ MORE: Protests in Minneapolis after cop guns down Black man in traffic stop

White House 'incredibly saddened'

Officers stopped a motorist shortly before 2 pm on Sunday for an unspecified traffic violation, police said in a statement. Authorities planned to provide an update later Monday.

Katie Wright said her son called her as he was getting pulled over.

“All he did was have air fresheners in the car, and they told him to get out of the car,” Wright said. 

During the call, she said she heard scuffling and then someone saying “Daunte, don’t run” before the call ended. When she called back, her son’s girlfriend answered and said he had been shot.

After determining the driver had an outstanding warrant, police said they tried to arrest him. Then the driver reentered the vehicle, and an officer fired, striking him, police said. The vehicle traveled several blocks before striking another vehicle.

Wright’s family offered a different account, with Katie Wright saying her son was shot before getting back into the car.

A female passenger sustained non-life-threatening injuries during the crash, authorities said. Katie Wright said that passenger was her son’s girlfriend.

Court records show Wright was being sought after failing to appear in court on charges that he fled from officers and possessed a gun without a permit during an encounter with Minneapolis police in June.

In that case, a statement of probable cause said police got a call about a man waving a gun who was later identified as Wright.”

Shortly after the shooting, demonstrators began to gather, with some jumping atop police cars. Marchers also descended on the Brooklyn Center Police Department, where rocks and other objects were thrown at officers, authorities said. The protesters had largely dispersed by 1:15 am Monday.

President Joe Biden was briefed on the shooting, and the White House has been in touch with the governor, mayor and local law enforcement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

“We were incredibly saddened to hear about the loss of life at the hands of law enforcement in Minnesota yesterday,” she said.

Black Lives Matter

National Guard troops and law enforcement officers continued to guard the front of the police department on Monday morning. Police were erecting a concrete barrier as Minnesota State Patrol officers joined the line in front of the precinct.

Several people and reporters watched from across the street as traffic returned to normal on the street where protesters were met with tear gas the night before.

One man yelled at the officers using a megaphone as others flew Black Lives Matter flags.

About 20 businesses were broken into at the city’s Shingle Creek shopping center, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said at a news conference.

The National Guard was activated, and Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott announced a curfew that expired shortly before daybreak.

Police said Brooklyn Center officers wear body cameras, which they believe were activated during the traffic stop. The department said it has asked the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to investigate.

READ MORE: Jurors shown graphic video during trial of ex-cop who killed George Floyd

Twins, Wolves, Wild postpone games following police shooting

Meanwhile, The Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Wild and Minnesota Timberwolves postponed games scheduled for Monday because of safety concerns and the potential for unrest in the area.

Major League Baseball's Twins and Boston Red Sox were scheduled to begin a four-game series on Monday afternoon at Target Field. 

The Twins said their decision was made in consultation with Major League Baseball and state and local officials "out of respect for the tragic events that occurred yesterday." 

There was no word yet about rescheduling or the status of games set for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The NHL'S Wild were supposed to host the St. Louis Blues on Monday night, a game the team said was postponed "out of respect for the community." 

That game was rescheduled for May 12.

The NBA also announced that Monday night's scheduled game between the Timberwolves and Brooklyn Nets was postponed "in light of the tragic events in the Minneapolis area."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies